The Secret Side of Charleston—Discovering Hidden Alleys and Passageways

Logan Waddell
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Charleston is full of hidden alleys, passageways, and frankly some pretty terrifying ghost stories. What a lot of locals may be unaware of are all of the hidden walkways, both natural and man-made, that exist beyond the historic groundwork of the holy city.

Downtown is home to beautiful, elaborate alleys the wind south of Broad, each one is centuries old and owns its own stories. Other lesser-known paths exist in completely different forms, like sandbars and trails. If you live here and do not go out and explore the surrounding islands, or pigeonhole yourself into the same routine, you’ll never know these paths exist. Here are a few new ways to explore the town and discover the secret side of Charleston.

Stoll’s Alley

The bricks and cobblestones of Stoll's Alley.
The bricks and cobblestones of Stoll's Alley. Logan Waddell

Stoll’s Alley is a very well-hidden passage between East Bay Street and Church Street, just above Tradd Street. If you travel east down it, you’ll hit the seawall that runs along the battery, and an incredible view of Charleston Harbor. Go the opposite direction, and you’ll run into Church Street, arguably the most beautiful road in downtown Charleston.

Either way you’re shaded under massive, ancient live oaks, and traveling on top of bricks and cobblestones that were laid way before your great-, great-grandfather was born. The alley is short, but it takes most people a few minutes to walk down, what with all of the detail along the path. You could spend all day in the narrow passage and still not see every detail. Every single crack and chip in the wall has a story behind it.

Sullivan’s Island—Station 26

Sullivan’s Island is somewhere between a wild barrier island and your rich neighbor’s summer getaway. Overgrown streets and beach access points divide million-dollar beach cottages with jungle-like flora, dissecting the island into a weedy grid. Toward the east end of the island down the station 26 access there is a sandbar, only accessible on a low tide, that juts out about a quarter mile into the ocean. It’s very visible, and if you walk all the way to the end, you’ll hit a second beach with its own beach break.

The whole experience is awesome, From walking through the 6-inch high water passing hundreds of sand dollars and conch shells, to standing on bare sand way out in the ocean. If you haven’t been to Station 26 on Sullivan’s Island yet, you’re definitely missing out.

Folly Beach Marsh

Folly Beach Marsh is filled with hidden trails.
Folly Beach Marsh is filled with hidden trails. Logan Waddell

If you walk to the end of the Morris Island Lighthouse Trail and hit the beach, you’ll see an elevated sand dune on your left, about 4 feet above the beach. Hop up on the sand dune, and look through the trees for trail openings. We have no idea who is responsible for the spiderweb of trails that lies between the marsh behind Folly Beach, and the ocean, but whoever they are did a great job. These are fun, hidden little trails that wind through the Spanish moss draped Live Oaks, and eventually spit you out in the marsh, or along the beach. The only things you have to worry about are ticks and mosquitos. That being said, the best time to hang out here is in the fall or winter.

Longitude Lane

Longitude Lane is another, slightly longer alley in downtown’s South of Broad area. This street is open to the public, and offers a glimpse into some of the hidden backyards and courtyards of Charleston’s oldest homes. The lane dates back to the 17th century, which explains why the last time I tried to ride my bike down it, I flipped over handle bars and landed on the jagged bricks and stones that pave the alley. The 300-year-old path is a great place to take a break from walking or riding, and check out what a road might have looked like a very long time ago.

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